Texas judge who previously deemed DACA illegal reaffirms ruling

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A revised version of the federal policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which prevents the deportation of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, has once again been deemed illegal by a federal judge who gave the same ruling previously.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen said in his decision Wednesday that on July 16, 2021, the court vacated the DACA program created by the 2012 DACA Memorandum, which prohibited the U.S., its departments, agencies, officers, agents and employees from granting new DACA applications and administering the program.

Hanen’s decision then was affirmed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Wednesday, reaffirmed by him.

‘That program is vacated, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is enjoined from implementing Final Rule DACA until a further order of the Court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, or the Supreme Court of the United States,’ Hanen wrote.

The judge also said defendants may continue to administer the program to individuals who received their initial DACA status before July 16, 2021, which may include processing and granting DACA renewal applications for those individuals.

He also said DHS can continue to accept initial applications, though it ‘may not grant any,’ and the department was advised to post a public notice of the injunction on its website and websites of all relevant agencies involved in DACA administration or processing.

‘A Final Judgment has not been entered in this case, so all matters not being addressed by an appellate court are still pending in this Court and subject to its jurisdiction,’ Hanen wrote.

The decision comes more than a month after attorneys representing the states of Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas and Mississippi — all states that sued to end the Obama-era program — as well as lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice and DACA recipients were to appear before Hanen to debate the issue.

Hanen, in 2021, declared DACA illegal, ruling that the program had not been subjected to public notice and comment periods required under the federal Administrative Procedures Act. He also said the nine states seeking to stop DACA had standing to file their lawsuit because they had been harmed by the program.

The White House issued the following statement Wednesday night expressing its disappointment with the ruling.

‘We are deeply disappointed in today’s DACA ruling from the District Court in Southern Texas. On day one of his Administration, President Biden issued a memorandum directing the federal government to take all appropriate actions to ‘preserve and fortify’ the DACA policy. Consistent with that directive, the Administration has defended the DACA policy from legal challenges, and issued a final rule codifying this longstanding policy. During this Administration, hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients have been able to live and work lawfully in our country without fear of deportation.

‘As we have long maintained, we disagree with the District Court’s conclusion that DACA is unlawful, and will continue to defend this critical policy from legal challenges. While we do so, consistent with the court’s order, DHS will continue to process renewals for current DACA recipients and DHS may continue to accept DACA applications.’

The White House added that it is ‘committed to protecting all the Dreamers’ who have enriched communities and the country, and it will call on Congress to provide ‘permanent protection’ to all who remain in the US.

The states claimed they incur hundreds of millions of dollars in health care, education and other costs when immigrants are allowed to remain in the country illegally.

While the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hanen’s ruling in 2022, the court sent the case back to the judge to review changes made to the program by the Biden administration.

In court filings, Texas and the other states argued that the updated program is essentially the same as the 2012 memo that first created it and remains ‘unlawful and unconstitutional.’ The states also argued that the White House overstepped its authority by granting immigration benefits that are for Congress to decide.

The U.S. Justice Department argued in court filings that the states failed to show any direct injury because of DACA, and that Congress has given the Department of Homeland Security the ‘authority and duty to set immigration enforcement policies.’

There were 580,310 people enrolled in DACA at the end of December, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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